Girl, 15, held while awaiting foster care

A TROUBLED 15-year-old girl who has been using drugs and has gone missing 25 times this year has been further remanded in custody until Friday pending efforts to place her into foster care.

The girl, who is being held in custody in Oberstown Girls’ Centre after she breached a probation bond, was yesterday further remanded in custody by the Dublin Children’s Court pending efforts by the HSE to put her into foster care.

Judge Anne Ryan heard that the girl consented to being held while her foster placement is arranged.

Earlier the court heard that the girl, who also suffers from depression, had been assessed by HSE social workers but “did not fit the criteria for being placed in secure care,” in the Ballydowd Special Care Unit in Dublin.

However, a foster placement with support services was being sourced.

Previously, the teenager’s mother had said: “She is taking drugs, she’s only 15. I’ve no control over her. She’s palling around with men that are older than her.”

The court had been told the girl’s mother had sought social services’ assistance for her daughter for four years and the HSE had twice refused to take her into care.

In June, she had been put on probation for one year but within days breached the terms and was later remanded in custody for a spell. Later she was bailed with conditions compelling her to obey a curfew and to reside with her mother but she then went missing and when located earlier this month was remanded in custody.

The latest development in the case comes as details emerged of a new pilot scheme which will be launched next year to offer extremely difficult children an intensive foster care programme aimed at keeping them out of residential care.

The programme, which originated in the US, will be launched in the HSE Midlands area and will initially place 10 children with specially trained foster families.

The Multi-Dimensional Treatment Foster Care programme has been rolled out in other countries. Experts here predict it will keep more troubled children out of residential care settings.

Aidan Waterstone, the HSE’s director of child and family services, said the pilot scheme was “exciting” and a “very positive development.”

“It is a proven, specialised foster care for children with challenging behaviour.

“Right now we are recruiting foster parents and plan to be fostering children in the early new year.

“It will be a medium care placement up to about six months. It will enable them to deal with their challenging behaviour and then they can step down to more conventional fostering setting [afterwards],” he said.

The HSE expect the scheme to operate for at least three years and to develop additional services in other health board areas next year.

The foster parents who will be recruited for the scheme will be vetted and receive special training. Once they begin fostering the child there will be intensive daily support and contact from local health and child support representatives and will provide a daily report on the child’s progress.

Those children who will engage with the scheme during the pilot phase will be taken from the Midlands area, and Mr Waterstone said he was hopeful that the scheme “will prove to be a constructive service”.

Child services

THE Government will be urged today to prioritise the delivery of key United Nations (UN) recommendations made last year regarding services for Irish children.

The Children’s Rights Alliance (CRA) will make its comments as it marks the 15th anniversary of Ireland’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992.

The CRA will mark the event with its first podcast, which will be launched by the Alliance’s Chief Executive Jillian Van Turnout. She will also present a copy of the podcast to Minister for Children Brendan Smith.

The podcast will be downloadable from the website.

It will be backed by calls for the Government to follow though on several key recommendations made to it just a year ago by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Those include:

* Reform of adoption laws;

* Providing social work services to families and children at risk on an all-week, 24-hour basis;

* Providing separate detention facilities for children under the age of 18;

* Providing mental health services designed to meet the needs of children and teenagers.

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